Family finds its fortune in music
Denny Diamond and the Family Jewels
‘Six Degrees of Neil
Denny Diamond & The Family Jewels, Gorilla Tango’s Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie
7:30 p.m. Saturday,
(773) 598-4549 or visit www.gorillatango.com
Updated: June 12, 2012 8:37PM
Most fathers treasure their sons. Dennis R. Svehla’s are especially precious to him.
Svehla, who loves the music of Neil Diamond, performs as Denny Diamond. His sons, Lucas (24) and Spenser (23), frequently join him onstage — as The Family Jewels.
Denny Diamond & The Family Jewels will prove their worth on Saturday, June 16 at Gorilla Tango’s Skokie Theatre.
In addition to performing songs by Neil Diamond, the trio will be singing tunes made famous by Johnny Cash, Ricky Nelson and others. “We call it ‘Six Degrees of Neil Diamond’ because we find ways to connect different artists to Neil Diamond,” Svehla said. “For instance, Glen Campbell recorded a song called ‘Sunflowers,’ which Neil Diamond wrote. So we’ll do a couple of Glen Campbell songs. Neil Diamond recorded a Beach Boys song so we’ll do that song.”
Svehla had been performing as Denny Diamond for a while when his sons, who were then in high school, began appearing with him at parades and benefits. “When they got into college, they started joining me when I played at lunch and dinner shows,” Svehla said. “Now they’re out of college and they’re with me all the time.”
That means as much to Svehla’s two sons as it does to him.
“I think the best part of being a Family Jewel is being around my dad and brother all the time,” Spenser said. “Not too many people get to work with their family for a living. It’s awesome to be able to do that.”
Lucas added, that he loves, “traveling around the country meeting people. We get to meet a lot of people and get to hear a lot of great stories.”
Spenser and Lucas create their own stories onstage, in addition to playing and singing. “There’s some arguing onstage like the Smothers Brothers used to do and people get a kick out of it,” Svehla reported.
Svehla and Lucas both play guitar. “Spenser is our little magical guy. He plays the bass and the drums at the same time,” Svehla said. “We’re kind of a three-piece that’s a four-piece.”
Svehla took some music courses while attending Triton College in River Grove for a couple of years but is mostly self-taught on the guitar. Other people made the Diamond connection.
“As karaoke started to get popular, I would sing a couple of Neil Diamond songs and people thought I sounded like him,” Svehla related. “In 2000, I got picked up by a Dick Clark show called, ‘Your Big Break.’ It was a show that was based on people who sound like somebody else but don’t look like them. They brought me on to do Neil Diamond stuff. After that, it started going and going.”
Svehla has been performing fulltime ever since. When we spoke he was doing a solo show at an Elvis convention in Lake George, N.Y. “They want to show the history of rock and roll and Neil was part of the history,” the entertainer explained.
Working with his sons “is a gas,” Svehla said. He particularly enjoys the delight Lucas and Spenser have found in discovering songs from the past. “They really appreciate the old music and how people used to make it.”
There’s another Family Jewel waiting in the wings — and one watching from the sidelines. “Sarah, my daughter, will come out and sing with us occasionally,” Svehla said. “My wife [Janet] will say she can’t whistle, chew gum and walk at the same time.”